The Judgment Seat Of Christ: When God Judges The Saints

Christians escape the great white throne judgment, which is the judgment unto eternal damnation. Yet saints do not escape judgment altogether. God has reserved another day of judgment for the saint when we will be judged for eternal rewards. It is known as the judgment seat of Christ, or the bema seat of Christ.

Judgment Seat of Christ

For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.

If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

1 Corinthians 3:11-15
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Above are some of the primary Scriptures in the epistles used to support this doctrine.

Great White Throne Judgment

The first thing we notice about the judgment seat of Christ is it differs from the great white throne judgment:

Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened.

And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.

The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.

Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.

Revelation 20:11-15

The maximum loss at the great white throne judgment is one’s eternal soul. The maximum loss at the judgment seat of Christ is one’s eternal rewards. Huge difference!

God Judges Our Works

Paul describes the judgment seat of Christ as the event where Christ judges our works, “of what sort it is,” and not our life, of what sort it is. Here’s another vivid Scripture of this event:

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

2 Corinthians 5:10

Despite whatever weaknesses may be addressed at this judgment, the fact that we are at this judgment and not the great white throne judgment means we are saved from God’s wrath, and our “life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3).

But saved from God’s wrath is not the same as saved from His examination and eternal repercussions for bad decisions and bad behavior.

God Judges the Quality and Effect of Our Works

There are two areas in which we will be judged. Quality: What building material is the structure of our works comprised of? Effect: What did our works accomplish? So, Christ will examine our thoughts, words, and deeds for the fruit of the Spirit, and what they accomplished for eternity.

But how thorough and severe will be this examination? Well, Paul describes the process—and not necessarily the Lord’s attitude—as quite severe.

Judgment Seat Of Christ Is Serious

He uses the terms “the Day,” “will declare it,” “revealed by fire,” “the fire will test,” “if it endures,” “if anyone’s work is burned,” “he will suffer loss,” and “through fire.”

This is a day when the God who separates joint from marrow, soul and spirit, and the thoughts and intents of the heart, will judge the good and bad we’ve done in the body subsequent to salvation (2 Corinthians 5:10).

Our Sins Are Not Literally Forgotten

Yes, on that Day our sins are covered, in the sense that they do not earn us hell. But as they relate to our eternal rewards, they are not literally forgotten, as it is commonly believed.

They are forgotten only in the same way King David’s adultery with Bathsheba, and Peter’s hypocrisy in Antioch, are forgotten. They are not held responsible to pay the eternal penalty of damnation for these sins. But these sins committed after salvation are evaluated for their effect on eternal rewards.

That forgiven sins are not literally forgotten by God is evident in that God is omniscient. There’s nothing He doesn’t know (Hebrews 4:13).

We also know God gives us details about forgiven sins (i.e., David’s adultery (2 Samuel 11:1—12:1-13), Peter’s hypocrisy (Galatians 2:11-14), Nebuchadnezzar’s pride (Daniel 4:28-37) in the Bible. Obviously, He can’t tell us about something He has literally forgotten.

God Judges Our Works For Rewards By A Fiery Examination

Now let’s make sure we catch the full significance of God’s emphasis on His process of examination fire on the saints’ judgment day.

The picture Paul gives us is God passing over all our works in consuming fire to see what remains afterwards. Whatever remains is gold, silver, and precious stones. Whatever burns up is wood, hay, and stubble.

Some Saints Will Lose Rewards

Tragically, some will not only lose some of their works, but apparently will lose everything except their soul. These, Paul said, “will suffer loss, but he himself will be saved.” Then he adds, “yet so as through fire.”

Sadly, multitudes of foolish, distracted, uncommitted, and underdeveloped saints will escape the fires of hell, but will not escape the fires of God’s examination for eternal rewards. They will suffer staggering loss.

Loss of honor and privileges and powers and responsibilities we do not yet understand. But on that great day all will be clear. The Creator of the vast universe had mind-boggling plans for us, if only we had proven faithful!

Unfortunately, it will be too late. We won’t be able to trade remorse for a second chance.

Don’t Lose Your Rewards

The picture is of a man trapped in a building on fire. Menacing flames snatch hungrily at his clothes and flesh. His skin is scorched. His hair burned. His valuables are lost. Somehow, he barely makes it out.

The solemn event of the judgment seat of Christ thoroughly unnerves me. It shakes me to my core. It makes me tremble. It increases my fear of the Lord. It makes me examine myself and cry out to God for mercy and help to be and do better.

Say what you want about me. Accuse me of being weak in my faith. Of not understanding grace. Of not resting in God’s love. Whatever you want. I’m going to follow Paul’s advice and “examine yourself [myself] to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves (2 Corinthians 13:5).”

The idea of barely making it in by the skin of my teeth, so to speak, is absolutely abhorrent to me. I don’t want to be a Lot, a Samson, or the thief on the cross.[1]

I want to be among those who not only are blessed of God, but of those who bless God. And you don’t bless God by living an earthbound, distracted, careless, or habitually sinful life. [2]

It’s also not a blessing to Him for me to disqualify myself from His highest plans for my life because I valued this world more than His eternal riches (Philippians 3:10-14; 1 Corinthians 9:27).

Oh, God, help us!

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[1] “For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? Now ‘If the righteous one is scarcely saved, where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?’” (1 Peter 4:17-18).

[2] A genuine Christian may struggle with a habitual sin (Galatians 6:1). However, a lifestyle of sin is a sign that one is not a child of God (1 John 3:6-10). Don’t be deceived!

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Eric M Hill

Eric M Hill is an author, blogger, YouTuber, and Bible teacher. He has written sixteen books. He is a member of the Authors Guild and Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA).

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